Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Last year the Telegraph disclosed how anti-doping checks at the Rio Olympics had descended into chaos after the process of sample collection was undermined by no-shows and security lapses.Organisers admitted to unauthorised individuals had gained access to restricted areas during the drug-testing process while a shortage of staff left many testers at breaking point, Some walked out because the pressure was so great.The problems last summer came just weeks after a damning report in which Russia was found guilty of state-sponsored doing at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova was ordered to repay almost £378,000 to the organisers of the London Marathon after being banned for dopingCredit: PA Wire The test, which asked athletes the question “Have you knowingly violated anti-doping regulations by using a prohibited substance or method in the past 12 months” had special checks in place to make sure it was completely anonymous.Half of those who took part were never asked the doping question to make sure it was impossible to know who had responded. But now the journal Sports Medicine has published the findings after deciding that the methods were scientifically sound, and a fair representation of the situation.“These findings suggest that biological testing greatly underestimates the true prevalence of doping in elite athletics,” said Harrison Pope, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.“It indicates the need for future studies of the prevalence of doping in athletics using randomized response techniques to protect the anonymity of the athletes. Wada said that a working group will meet next month to discuss the latest study.“Given the numerous recent highly publicised doping scandals in major sports, one might guess that the proportion of such undetected cheats is high,” said Rolf Ulrich, co-author of the study from the University of Tübingen.Nicole Sapstead, Chief Executive of UK Anti-Doping, said that the findings were ‘disappointing and concerning.’However she added: “Significant improvements have taken place since 2011 when this data was collected. Testing methods continue to advance but testing is only one part of the anti-doping process.“There is now greater investment in educating elite and up and coming athletes about the dangers and consequences of taking banned substances, as well as a greater emphasis on intelligence and investigations as an alternative way of catching those who seek to break the rules.” Russia’s Ekaterina Galitskaya competing in the Stars of 2016 event in Moscow after athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics over evidence of state-sponsored dopingCredit:AFP Nearly half of professional athletes are using banned drugs or methods to enhance their performance, an anonymous survey has found.Harvard University asked more than 2,000 elite sportsmen and women who were competing at World Championships in Athletics (WCA) and Pan-Arab Games (PAG), whether they had broken the rules in the last 12 months.Nearly one third of WCA athletes admitted to violating anti-doping regulations and 45 per cent of those at the PAG, figures which were described as ‘disappointing and concerning’ by sports commentators.The statistics contradict biological tests or blood and urine which typically detect doping in only one to three per cent of competitors at elite events.The surveys were carried out at events in 2011 and commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), but the results have only just be published following years of rows over the researchers’ methodology. John Brewer Professor of Sports Science at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, said: “It is always a concern when reports like this on the extent of doping in sport come to light, and once again the report highlights the need for Governments and International Federations to continue to invest in research, education and testing to combat doping. “I think the figures are unlikely to be a reflection of the situation today, and I am confident that as well as testing and punishments acting as a deterrent, we have on-going education programmes in most sports which highlight the fact that doping isn’t just cheating – it ruins lives and in many cases either shortens lives or ends them prematurely due to the harm that most banned substances do to the human body.” “Even though the paper refers to events that happened in 2011, there is no reason to think the rates of doping in 2017 would be any different.”The authors conclude that doping is ‘remarkably widespread’ among elite athletes but remains largely unchecked, in spite of sophisticated testing methods. They claim such prevalence not only compromises fair play, but could be detrimental to the health of athletes.
- Nearly half of professional athletes surveyed break rules to enhance performance